The Other of Intellectual Property and Its Resistance_Public Domain and Creative Commons
Topics creative commons
, the other
, information environment movement
, public domain
, unauthorized Books
, computer software
, idea/expression dichotomy
Facing the expansion of intellectual property in the late twentieth century, supporters of public domain often viewed creative commons licenses as a private action to resist the second enclosure and build their own public domain. Lawrence Lessig, founder of creative commons, defined creative commons as an “effective public domain” that aims to realize the vision of free culture. However, some scholars and activists have criticized the fuzziness of creative commons' ideology. From their point of view, creative commons is more like a copyright license than a public domain, a submission to property discourse than a subversive resistance. In this dissertation, I explored this issue through the concepts of “discourse” and “the other” borrowed from critical studies and post-colonial theory. Specifically, I analyzed the texts of “intellectual property discourse ” in a critical historical approach. In this way, we might have more insight about the relationship between creative commons and intellectual property discourse.
By exploring the formation and development of intellectual property discourse in England and U.SA., I pointed out its function in soothing the anxieties of intellectual property rights holders, who more likely be capitalists than creators, and its structural embedded contradiction. Specifically, although “original genius” as an idea image of authorship repeatedly emerges when it come to the justification of proprietor exclusive and despotic power over its private property, to be a proprietor of an “original ” work only needs to be a copier with bad eyesight who is incapable of making a perfect copy. The dichotomy of “private” expression and “public ” ideas also plays a same role in soothing the anxieties of intellectual property rights holders while continually expanding the scope of their rights. In addition, the other of intellectual property---public domain— becomes an synonym of knowledge wasteland and commons of tragedy in which everyone suffers. This provides a further justification for the institution of intellectual property.
Under the rule of Kuomintang government before it lifted its martial law, Taiwan's Copyright registration system, in which creators need to register its work to acquire copyright, had long be an content-based speech regulation. Although we may doubted its significance in regulating speech compared to publication law, it seems that to some degree government regarded speech with a copyright “license” as a symbol of lawful speech. Instead of arguing from the perspective of free speech, lawyers, scholars and “Copyright Owners Association of Republic of China” tended to invoke intellectual property discourse. They argued that owing to the fact that copyright is a natural right, the copyright registration system unduly limited property rights secured by Constitution. In 1985 Copyright Act, Taiwanese work no longer need to registered to acquired copyright. Although intellectual property discourse played an vital role in this legal reform, it also reinforced the status of public domain of being the other. Because no one has a exclusive right over public domain, the Taiwan High Court think it is unnecessary to confirm its legal status. Furthermore, when U.S.A. demanded Kuomintang government to let their public domain movies regain copyright protection by applying new copyright act's copyright duration, the activists who against this proposal couldn't appeal to rights discourse because they had “no rights” in public domain work.
In addition, from the two case studies, unauthorized books and computer programs in Taiwan, I argued there are two notable phenomenons when it comes to the resistance to of intellectual property discourse : submission in seemly resistance and resistance by acknowledging some elements of intellectual property discourse. In intellectual property discourse, the dichotomy between public domain and intellectual property also represents an evolution from barbarian to civilized, lawless to order, undeveloped to developed . In this vein, some “resistance” in Taiwan premised on this linear evolution theory, arguing the “modern” intellectual property law is too early for undeveloped and primitive Taiwan to adopt. On the other hand, owing to the fact that there are structural embedded contradiction in intellectual property discourse, we could see some lawyer and scholars who were familiar with intellectual property discourse, adopted a subversive strategy by acknowledging some elements of intellectual property discourse.
We could also see this complex submission and resistance relationship between creative commons and intellectual property discourse. By acknowledging the primacy of “author,” creative commons regarded itself as a tool to replace the intermediaries. However, there are some pitfalls in this strategy. Without re-imagine the idea of authorship, instead of voicing out dissents and alternatives, creative might replicate the intellectual property discourse, especially in Taiwan where creative commons is more like a promotion aided by government than a grassgroots movement. Thus, in this dissertation, I propose an concept of “cultural common property” in the lens of “inter-dependent participative authorship in cultural landscape” to rethink the future of creative commons and information environment movement.